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Stress in young adult cancer patients and caregivers

Mar. 24, 2022, 10:15 AM

by Leigh MacMillan

Rates of cancer in adolescents and young adults (ages 15-39) are increasing, with psychosocial dysfunction, including posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), reported among patients and families. Understanding risk factors for impaired psychosocial well-being is critical to improving cancer treatment and survivorship trajectories. 

Laura Baum, MD, MPH, Debra Friedman, MD, MS, and colleagues conducted a survey-based study of PTSS and financial toxicity in adolescent and young adult oncology (AYAO) patients and caregivers within one month of cancer treatment initiation. They found clinically concerning PTSS in patients (44%) and caregivers (52%); the PTSS scores were not correlated between the patient-caregiver pairs. Patients and caregivers also reported substantial financial toxicity, which was correlated within the pairs, as well as associated with PTSS. 

The findings of this exploratory study, reported in Cancer, suggest that both AYAO patients and caregivers experience psychosocial impairment and financial toxicity at the time of cancer diagnosis. Longitudinal follow-up and larger studies are needed to inform interventions to support patient and caregiver well-being.

Baum, now an assistant professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, led the study as a hematology/oncology fellow at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Authors in addition to Baum and Friedman include Tatsuki Koyama, PhD, Emma Schremp, MS, Kevin Zhang, MS, Casey Rodweller, MS, Marissa Roth, MS, and Bruce Compas, PhD. The research was supported by an impact grant from Hyundai Hope on Wheels.

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